Department of History

Aura Jirau Arroyo

  • Graduate Student

I am a fourth year PhD candidate engaging in full-time dissertation research in Puerto Rico. After graduating from the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras Campus with a BA in History of the Americas, my research evolved greatly throughout my journey at the University of Pittsburgh. My previous interests in popular religion expanded while researching my masters, exploring the influence of the Catholic Church in nineteenth century Puerto Rican education. For the doctoral phase of my studies, my interests on the island’s education shifted toward the twentieth century, focusing on protest within its public university. The contextualization and the framing of my current project’s questions reflects lessons learned at Pitt, which help me look beyond existing scholarly paradigms related to Puerto Rican history.

I have been active in Department service since I first arrived at Pitt, serving as liaison to the Department of History’s collaboration with its equivalent at Carnegie Mellon University. When I am not researching, I cherish every chance I get to learn from the world that surrounds me. Sapere Aude!


Latin American History
World History
Comparative Student Movements
Twentieth Century Puerto Rican History

Teaching Experience:

HIST 1691 Latino History (Standalone Instructor, forthcoming Summer 2018)

HIST 0687 The United States in the Middle East (TF for Luke Peterson, Spring 2017)

HIST 0601 United States 1877 to the Present (TF for Liann Tsoukas, Fall 2016)

HIST 0301 Imperial Russia, 1865-1917 (TA for Scott Smith, Spring 2016)

HIST 0101 Western Civilization II (TA for Leslie Hammond, Fall 2015)

Representative Publications

Conference Presentations:

“The Cuban Revolution as a Model of Decolonization for Puerto Rican Students, 1959-1970” Forthcoming; Annual Meeting, Latin American Studies Association (2018)

“An Insight into the Pluralities of the Student Movement During the University of Puerto Rico Strikes, 2010-2011” Graduate Research Forum, Carnegie Mellon University (2016)                                                                                             

“Padre Rufo and Seminario Conciliar: Thoughts Regarding Catholic Educational Reform in Mid-Nineteenth Century Puerto Rico” Annual Meeting, Eastern International Region of the American Academy of Religion (2016)

“Luchas entre las Vírgenes”: Puerto Rico de los siglos XVI al XX” XIX Congress, Mexican Association of Caribbean Studies (2014)

“Este lío no es conmigo”: La imagen de la mujer en los anuncios de las revistas Puerto Rico Ilustrado y Carteles durante el año 1952” III Colloquium, Puerto Rican Association of Research in Women’s History (2014)

“Sharon Pratt’s Two Elections: Her Representation in Two American Newspapers” Puerto Rico’s First History Majors Encounter (2013)

Research Interests

PhD Dissertation Topic:

Preliminary Title: Campus, Conflict, and Island Transformations: The People of the UPR-Río Piedras, 1952-1981

Committee Members: Dr. Lara Putnam (Chair), Dr. George Reid Andrews, Dr. Laura Gotkowitz, Dr. Aldo Lauria Santiago (Rutgers University)


My dissertation historicizes the student body of the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras Campus (UPR-RP) from 1952-1981. It does so by taking a holistic outlook to the university as a community, analyzing the interactions that students had with faculty, workers, and administrators. It takes a social historical approach to the events by focusing on instances of student protest, and how they were either supported or contested by agents within and outside campus. Debunking previous notions that place the UPR-RP at the center of social mobilization in Puerto Rico, my project contends that the Río Piedras Campus served as a laboratory for the various agendas of the island’s government and political movements. Students however, were not passive actors used by these entities, but engaged with and helped construct discourses of resistance within the realm of higher education and beyond. My dissertation offers a novel lens through which to analyze the impact of US-American interventionism and global Cold War tendencies in Puerto Rico, and how they were used and/or contested by its peoples.